Human Rights Act: What has it done for us?

The Conservatives want to replace it. Here are five things it has implemented for good

Louis Dore
Friday 15 May 2015 13:14

The Human Rights Act was introduced in 1998 and for all the negative attention it receives it protects many aspects of life in the UK.

The Act has come under scrutiny recently after the Conservatives have announced plans to scrap the act in favour of a British 'Bill of Rights'.

The aim of the Conservatives in doing this is to sever ties from Europe and reduce the influence of the European Court of Human Rights on British political decisions, such as deporting prisoners to countries where torture is regularly used.

The Act was introduced to incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Michael Mansfield QC says: “If the Human Rights Act were scrapped people would soon realise how our daily lives benefit whether it’s in health, people in care, child abuse and so many other issues.”

Here are five things the act has given us:

1) Protected the Armed Forces' right to life:

The right to life means that servicemen and women are guaranteed correct and functioning equipment.

2) Ensured the right to a family life:

Amnesty notes a case of Mr and Mrs Driscoll, who had lived together for over 65 years. Unable to walk unaided, Mr Driscoll relied on his wife to help him move around. She was blind and relied on her husband as her eyes.

When Mr Driscoll was moved into a residential care home, Mrs Driscoll wanted to move to the home with her husband but was told she didn’t meet the criteria.

When the couple noted this was a breach of the right to a family life, Mrs Driscoll’s needs were re-assessed and the couple were reunited , which set a precedent for elderly couples to be kept together in the same care home.

Another case noted a woman who won the right to have a child using her dead husband’s sperm thanks to Article 8, which protects privacy and family life.

3) Combatted modern slavery

Article 4 stipulates freedom from slavery and forced labour, rights provided by the act which have been used to break up slavery rings and combat human trafficking.

4) Tackled rape and torture

Article 3 of the Human Rights Act forbids degrading treatment or punishment and has been used in cases to convict rapists and attack torture.

Notably, Cambridgeshire Police had to pay compensation in 2009 after realising they had destroyed crucial CCTV footage and lost records of a rape victim’s complaint in piles of paperwork.

5) Held police accountable for deaths in custody

Article 1, the right to life, protects many abuses, but has been used to effectively investigate cell deaths. Use of the Act has precedents now for gaining full inquiry into such events.

These are but a few examples of what the act protects, to read the legislature in full, visit

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